Summation of forensic anthropology
by Iosac Davidson
Positive identification of human remains is a primary focus of forensic anthropology. One of the most commonly preserved tissues are teeth, being the hardest structure in the body. The main goal of the forensic anthropologist is to create an osteobiography to assist the forensic pathologist in the identification process. An osteobiography is the estimation of the sex, age, unique pathology, if any, height and probable ancestry of a given set of human remains. It is the forensic anthropologist’s knowledge of excavation, anatomy, documentation, analysis of spatial relationships of material remains, and skill that enables an individual’s unique characteristics to be assessed and described.
This study of people occurs both in the modern forensic context and the study of past populations, or bioarchaeology. A subspecialty of forensic anthropology, dental anthropology is the study of human teeth. As the only part of the skeleton that is designed to interact with the external environment, teeth provide a unique window into specific
epochs of an individual’s development as they grow into adulthood, their diet, and even the use of teeth as a tool.
Types of analyses that can be undertaken on teeth include determining of pre and post mortem damage and changes to teeth, or dental taphonomy; using the size and mass to estimate sex, or odontometrics; using shape and unique morphology to estimate ancestry, or morphometrics; histological determination of nutrition status and stress during
growth from childhood to adulthood.
Schmidt, C. W. (2008) ‘Forensic dental anthropology: issues and guidelines’, in Technique and Application in Dental Anthropology. [Online]. Cambridge University Press. pp. 266–292.